Our fight to stop the sale of puppy mill puppies in pet stores is coming to a head in Florida, a state in which we’ve helped to pass over 80 local ordinances prohibiting those sales. A new bill in its state legislature, SB 994/HB 849, would void popular pet store ordinances recently enacted in Orange and Manatee Counties and prevent any Florida locality from stopping the sale of puppy mills puppies in the future.  

Petland, a company we’ve exposed for buying puppies from some of the worst puppy mills in the nation, is putting its money and influence behind this bill.  

With allies, Petland has hired more than a dozen lobbyists to push its pro-puppy mill agenda at the Florida state capital. According to public disclosures, special interests tied to the puppy mill and pet store sectors have given out a quarter-million dollars in campaign contributions to Florida lawmakers in just the past year.  

Petland has 15 locations in Florida, a state with over 80 puppy-selling pet stores, and the company has almost certainly concluded that stripping local governments of their ability to regulate puppy sales will prove unpopular, especially at a time when many locally funded shelters across Florida are at capacity. That’s why this legislation is crafted to appear to regulate the very industry it is designed to protect. It includes 20 pages of weak and unenforceable language that would do little but maintain the status quo for stores like Petland while harming shelters by pumping more puppy mill puppies into Florida communities.  

The puppy mill-to-pet store pipeline would flourish under this Trojan horse proposal, and so would the practices we’ve exposed and campaigned against—the sale of sick puppies, the deception of consumers and exorbitant financing rates and hidden fees. 

That’s why we’re working hard in Tallahassee to counter Petland’s deception. We have a team walking the halls at the capitol, and we’ve mobilized our advocacy base in Florida, urging every resident to call their senator and representative to urge them to oppose SB 994/HB 849. We’re launching a television advertising campaign this week to expose this stealth attack on animal welfare and the autonomy of local governments. Please watch our spot. 

We’ve fought off Petland’s attempts to preempt local pet store ordinances in Florida for several years now. We’ve done the same in a dozen other states across the nation, and you’d think Petland officials would get the message and move to a business model that doesn’t rely on harmful sales tactics and rampant cruelty. Instead, they are fighting to protect that model with all they’ve got. Petland has upped the ante this year, and the vast resources the company is putting toward its lobbying campaign means we must mount and sustain a spirited defense.  

When officials at a company like Petland decide to spend at this level, it shows just how worried they are. Our investigations exposing cruelty, suffering and neglect in Petland pet stores, and our success in statehouses and city halls across the nation, impacting 12 Petland stores just last year, are hitting the mark. In Florida, an investigation and lawsuit by the attorney general is also looming over the company.    

Petland should do the right thing and stop selling puppies, and we’ll praise the company when it does so. We’ve persuaded many other stores to join our pet store conversion program, and they’ve made the transition to successful business models based on animal adoptions and pet product sales. Several Petland stores already don’t sell puppies, and the company could easily make this a national commitment. Until it does, we’ll do right by animals and the people who love them, and fight Petland toe-to-toe and paw-to-paw, whenever and wherever we must. 

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.